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Professional Matters - January 2016

1. Professional Matters Committee membership. Many thanks to outgoing elected member Lee Pearcy, and to outgoing committee chairs Brooke Holmes and Toph Marshall. Welcome to incoming elected member Bob Kaster. Special thanks to Jeff Henderson for agreeing to be appointed to another term as Director of the Classics Advisory Service.

2. Data-gathering. Analysis of the data from the Fall 2014 Census has been ongoing. For example, the following statistics can be gleaned about non-tenure-track faculty:

  • non-TT faculty represent 22.5% of full-time faculty in Classics programs (not just Classics departments)
  • non-TT faculty represent 39.6% of all faculty (including part-time faculty)
  • For comparison data: according to the Humanities Indicators survey of 2012–13, for Classical Studies:
  • non-TT faculty represent 15% of full-time Classics faculty
  • non-TT faculty represent 26.5% of all faculty (including part-time faculty)

CSWMG also did an analysis of some Census data of particular interest to its committee charge in comparison to the Census of 2004.  The report and accompanying tables are being posted to the SCS website.

A challenge going forward is a comprehensive analysis of Census data. It has been difficult to find volunteers among the membership willing to participate in the project. The Society needs to decide whether to invest in professionalizing the analysis of the data as well as the collection of data via the Census.

Other initiatives are yielding other statistics of interest to the membership. The Task Force on Non-Tenure-Track Faculty recently conducted a survey to departments and reported on this to the Board. I had a discussion with Jason Pedicone of the Paideia Institute about their current initiative (the Legion Project) aiming to identify career trajectories of Classics Ph.D.’s who have pursued non-academic careers.

3. Marital status on Placement Questionnaire. After discussion and with the advice of the Committees on Placement and the Status of Women and Minority Groups, the Committee decided to suspend the optional question about marital status on the Placement Service’s two questionnaires for candidates registering for the Service.

4. A subcommittee has been constituted to draft revisions of the SCS Statement on Professional Ethics (under ‘Working Conditions’) better to reflect the growing number of non-tenure-track faculty in Classics departments and programs.

5. Committee on the Status of Women and Minority Groups (from Brooke Holmes).  The Committee on the Status of Women and Minority Groups focused its energies on two major issues over the course of the past academic year: the organization of a panel at the annual meeting and a preliminary analysis of the 2014 census data released mid-year by the SCS.  The process of undertaking the data analysis led to broader reflection on the mission of CSWMG and a series of discussions on how to improve its efficacy.  This report therefore contains, in addition to a brief summary of the Committee’s activities in 2015/2016, recommendations for action by the Committee on Professional Matters and an agenda for CSWMG for 2016/2017.

A. Panel.  Since 2012, CSWMG has organized a panel, regularly with an “author meets critics” format pioneered by CSWMG, designed as an intellectual complement to the Committee’s commitment to equity and representation issues within the SCS.  This year, Akira Yatsuhashi and I co-organized a panel entitled “Race, Religion, Ethnicity: The Politics of Modern Classics,” featuring two relatively recent books: Miriam Leonard’s Socrates and the Jews: Hellenism and Hebraism from Moses Mendelssohn to Sigmund Freud (Chicago, 2011) and African Athena: New Agendas, edited by Dan Orrells, Gurminder Bhambra, and Tessa Roynon (Oxford, 2011).  Responses were given to Leonard’s book by Daniel Selden and Anthony Grafton; Caroline Stark and Justine McConnell responded to African Athena. The panel aimed to bring ongoing and lively conversations about the conceptual and institutional formation of modern classics to the attention of the wider membership, in part as an invitation to reflect on the implications and the stakes of the organization’s recent change of name to the Society for Classical Studies.

The incoming Chair, Celia Schultz, has already initiated planning on a panel for the Annual Meeting in Toronto on “immigrant classicists.”

B. Data AnalysisOverview.  Data collection was the raison d’être for the formation of the Committee over ten years ago.  With the transfer of responsibility for data gathering to the Committee for Professional Matters, the professionalization of the census, and the discontinuation of other forms of data gathering by CSWMG (e.g., the journals survey, discontinued in 2008), the question of CSWMG’s role is open for reconsideration.  The regularization and institutionalization of data gathering is a major step forward for the SCS.  We now need to think harder about what the aims of data collection are; to evaluate the process in light of these aims; and to identify ways to use data in order to recognize and address persistent discrepancies in the representation and advancement of underrepresented groups in the profession.

CSWMG compared results of the most recent departmental census (covering the 2013-14 academic year) with one conducted ten years ago.  That report, which includes comments from the Committee on its role in collecting and analyzing these data, is posted here.  On the basis of its reflections on the process this year, CSWMG proposes the following recommendations.

  1. That the Committee on Professional Matters and the leadership of the SCS, recognizing that the demographic composition of the membership, equitable representation, and non-discrimination in hiring and advancement are priorities for the entire membership and matters of concern for the organization as a whole, identify as one of the SCS’s central aims of professional data collection and analysis the detection and analysis of problems of equity and non-discrimination.  This is not a significant step from the status quo: the census already seeks to gather information about women and minority groups.  It’s a question, rather, of assessing the entire data collection process, from survey designs to analysis, in view of issues of equity and non-discrimination.  The company that converts raw data to useable information needs to understand this as one of the organization’s aims.
  1. The design of the survey and the analysis of the raw data should be seen as parts of a multi-part process requiring consultation with professionals as well as with peer organizations.  In particular, members of CSWMG and Professional Matters need to be able to identify aims for data collection and then to understand how to ask the kinds of questions to get at the information needed (e.g., Are individual member surveys necessary for getting certain kinds of information? Would some kind of smaller-scale focus groups be a better way of gathering information on some issues?) and to evaluate results based on standard statistical principles (What does it mean, e.g., if a sample size isn’t large enough? How do we make sense of data gathered from optional questions?).  Ideally, the new Executive Director of the SCS should see it as part of his or her job to oversee the data collection process as a whole.  But it is also a question of utilizing the professional consultants appropriately.  Perhaps the funds allocated for data collection in years when the census is not being undertaken be directed towards consultation on survey design and data analysis.
  1. The goal of data collection cannot simply be more data.  But nor is it the case that data collected in the present, even if not analyzed in the present, is not useful for future longitudinal study.  The Committee on Professional Matters should consider an inventory of all streams of data collection currently active within the organization (such as surveys to departments, placement service surveys), to ensure that data being collected is being coordinated and utilized most effectively in the present as well as in medium and longer term scenarios.  Note that with more coordination in data collection and gathering, structures can be established for more continuity within data analysis.  CSWMG’s current design has tended to work against continuity.

The magnitude of these questions concerning data gathering and analysis may justify the formation of a subcommittee dedicated to surveying and improving the process, from the identification of the goals of data collection, through identification of appropriate collection routes, to the analysis of results and the translation of interpretation into strategies for action.

C. The Future of CSWMG.  CSWMG has not had a clear sense of direction for the past five years.  With data collection (rightly) transferred to a professional agency and data analysis a process poorly matched to the skill set of the Committee, the panel has been a major point of focus—and indeed, it has been a great success and should be continued.  If the above recommendations are taken up, we imagine a reenvisioned role for CSWMG within a better charted and systematized data collection process.

  1. CSWMG should be involved in a broader conversation with Professional Matters and perhaps the Board about the goals of the SCS’s data collection; that is, helping to formulate a set of key issues that can then be made integral to the census design process and other member surveys (and if the census is not the right way to address the issues, such as salary tracking or difficulties in the tenure process for underrepresented minorities or the ways in which contingent employment intersects with issues of gender, then the committee could be involved in a conversation about other processes).
  1. It is unlikely, however, that CSWMG can take up all the many facets of the problems of equity and non-discrimination.  It may make sense for the committee to identify one or two issues of pressing concern picked out by the census data (such as pipeline, or climate, two issues receiving attention in other professional settings) and identify ways in which the SCS can address the issues more directly.  Ideally, this conversation would establish a feedback loop so that the implications of incoming data for target issues could be drawn out by people capable of data analysis and interpretation. The WCC and Lambda are important partners in this enterprise and have already been active in areas, such as mentoring, that support CSWMG’s mission. CSWMG strongly supports a WCC proposal to create an annual advocacy panel at the SCS as it could form a complement to the broader academic/intellectual work currently addressed by CSWMG’s “author meets critics” panels.
  1. One task that CSWMG is well suited to is a re-evaluation of the categories of identity used at various entry points into the SCS’s data collection enterprises.  The committee could look at how other professional organizations recognize members who identify with more than one ethnic group, for example and members whose gender identity is not captured by two choices, male/female.  This project could be taken up in 2016.
  1. Finally, the continuity on the committee from year to year has not been ideal.  CSWMG supports the proposal to establish staggered co-chairs for the committee, with each chair serving for two years within a three-year membership cycle.  Among other things, this would ensure continuity not just on the committee but in the conversations between CSWMG and the committees and organizations with which it interacts (WCC, Professional Matters, Placement).  A virtual drive should be set up on the SCS website where a record of reports can be filed and easily accessed by committee members.

6. Classics Advisory Service (from Jeffrey Henderson).  Since its last report the CAS has acted in response to requests from two college departments and is prepared to act on behalf of one university department pending the outcome of internal discussions with administration.

(a) In one of the colleges, an Academic Division Prioritization Process recommended retention of the major in Classical Studies but conversion of the majors—over a century old—in Classical Languages, Latin, and Greek to minors in Greek and Latin, and to terminate one of the Department’s tenured professors (of a faculty of four). These recommendations were subsequently ratified by the Board.

(b) The other college faces a proposal to dissolve the Department of Romance and Classical Languages, to eliminate the minors in Classics and Latin, and to relocate its remaining faculty to a new department without disciplinary identification and therefore hard to advertise to potential students, especially students drawn to the college for its traditional strength in language study.

(c) The university has a thriving Classics program that received a large endowment gift, but in order to cover its budget shortfall the University wishes to capture the annual return on this and all other such departmental endowments as salary offset. The CAS Director has heard through the grapevine about similar schemes, planned or already enacted, at other institutions.

In the case of a secondary school threatened with cancellation of its Latin program after the retirement of the venerable lead teacher, we determined that letters from colleagues in-state would be most effective, feeling free to mention SCS and the regional Association, and that was done.

The SCS is working in coordination with the Fédération internationale des associations d’études classiques (FIEC) and the European academic community to oppose policy trends that threaten to reduce or eliminate the teaching of Greek and Latin at all levels in France.

The CAS also advised on the selection of visitors for college and university external reviews, and on departmental concerns about assessment criteria that seemed ill suited to the discipline of classical studies.

7. Committee on Placement (from C. W. Marshall).  This year brought significant changes to the Placement Service, which have been implemented and have been met by strong support from the membership. Principally, acting on a recommendation of our meeting in Jan 2015, registration costs for the service have been waived for job seekers. Associated costs have been shifted in part to advertising departments (a shift we support), but we also realize that this has reduced overall revenues from the service, and we are grateful to Adam Blistein and the Board for making this decision. I was particularly heartened when one senior colleague indicated that the decision to remove costs for job-seekers led to him increasing his support to the society.

Problems with the computer interface (particularly in August, when the system switched over) did cause some delays at the start of the job-search year, but again, quick and sympathetic response from Adam and SCS staff led to rapid resolutions, and we discerned no lingering problems once the transition had been implemented.

Happily, there were no formal complaints raised about bad interview practices in the past hiring season. The need for accurate data collection was emphasized, balanced against privacy concerns.

Looking forward, the Placement Committee continues to work on a guide to aid jobseekers looking for non-academic or non-traditional employment. When it is finished, it will be made available on the SCS website. The Committee has not sponsored a panel at the meetings for the two years in which I served as chair: this may be worth pursuing in the future. Given the Presidential Panel this year on Contingent Faculty, the society seems sensitive and alert to the need for concern in this area. 

This is the end of my time on the Placement Committee, as the chair is taken over by Prof. Alex. Sens. I am very grateful for this experience. I had originally applied to serve on the joint AIA/APA committee, and was surprised when in my first meeting that partnership was dissolved. The SCS placement service is functioning well, and is serving the needs of its membership. The important progressive steps that have been implemented this year are a positive sign of the responsiveness of the society to the changing needs of job-seekers, who must always be kept at the forefront of our concerns.


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